Photos and Report: The Coordinated Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo in London, Washington, D.C., New York, Mexico City, Copenhagen, Brussels and Detroit on May 3, 2023


Four of the coordinated global vigils for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay that took place on May 3, 2023. Clockwise from top left: London, Washington, D.C., New York and Mexico City.

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On Wednesday (May 3), the latest coordinated global vigils for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay took place in eight cities across the world — London, Washington, D.C. New York, Mexico City, Copenhagen, Brussels, Detroit and Los Angeles — and with former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi joining us in Belgrade.

The idea for coordinated vigils arose from the monthly vigils that the UK Guantánamo Network (a coalition of various Amnesty groups, Close Guantánamo and other groups) started last September, and I was inspired to try coordinating vigils worldwide after reflecting on the various actions marking the 21st anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo in January.

Fortunately, friends in Washington, D.C. agreed to join in in February, with New York and Mexico City joining in March, and Brussels, Los Angeles, Raleigh, NC and Cobleskill, NY joining last month, and this month we were delighted to also welcome campaigners in Copenhagen and Detroit.

Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms, London on May 3, 2023.
Campaigners outside the US Congress in Washington, D.C. on May 3, 2023.
Campaigners outside the New York Public Library in New York on May 3, 2023 (Photo: Linda Novenski).
Campaigners stage a visually arresting vigil in Mexico City on May 3, 2023.
Campaigners with Amnesty Events Copenhagen stage another visually arresting vigil in Gammeltorv in Copenhagen on May 2, 2023.
Campaigners with the Comité Free.Assange.Belgium in Brussels on May 3, 2023.
Campaigners joining the global vigils for the first time outside the Federal Building in Detroit on May 3, 2023.

The aim of the vigils is not only to remind the Biden administration that people across the US and around the world care about the ever-urgent need for Guantánamo to be closed, but also, more urgently, that 16 of the 30 men who have been unanimously approved for release by high-level government review processes — shamefully, for between 222 and 4,849 days, as of May 3 — are still held.

Although three of these men can and should be repatriated, 13 others are in need of third countries to offer them new homes, because of prohibitions on returning them to their home countries that have been included by Republicans every year since the early days of the Obama presidency in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, along with a prohibition on bringing any prisoners to the US mainland for any reason.

In the UK and across the EU, campaigners are in the early stages of trying to persuade their governments to offer homes to some of of these men for humanitarian reasons, and the vigils, therefore, provide a powerful opportunity to amplify this message.

Pat Sheerin and Khandan Lolaki-Noble hold up the poster showing the 16 men still held who have been approved for release, and the shocking infographic showing how long they have been held across the road from the US Embassy in Nine Elms, London on May 3, 2023 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

In London, where the weather was sunny, campaigners, myself included, moved from our usual location in Parliament Square to the US Embassy in Nine Elms. We were encouraged by the numbers of passing vehicles honking their horns in support, and, towards the end of our two-hour vigil, a young American called Henry joined us, after getting a new passport from the Embassy to replace his original passport, which he had lost. After joking around with us for a while, he ended up wearing an orange jumpsuit and having his photo taken with us.

While London had been holding the best-attended vigils until this point, we were outdone on Wednesday by New York and Mexico City. In New York, the event was organized by the World Can’t Wait, with support from Brooklyn For Peace, NYC War Resisters League, Veterans for Peace, Uptown Progressive Action, the Granny Peace Brigade, and NYC Metro Raging Grannies, with Debra Sweet, the WCW’s National Director, explaining that blogger The Talking Dog spoke about recent releases from the prison, and the recent UN report about Abu Zubaydah, while Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture “sent us off with the morality we need.” For next month’s vigils — on Wednesday June 7 — Debra promises “more sound, more flyers, and more signs.” In Mexico City, meanwhile, activists Natalia Rivera Scott and Alli McCracken secured great support from members of Amnistía Internacional México. Thanks also to Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty International USA for publicizing the events to Amnesty members across the US.

Thanks also to Steve Lane, Helen Schietinger and other activists in Washington, D.C., to Frederikke Borglund and Amnesty Events Copenhagen for their striking vigil, to Jeanne Ghislaine and the Comité Free.Assange.Belgium in Brussels, to Jon Krampner for his solo vigil in downtown L.A., to Elliott Adams and the Schoharie Peacemakers in Cobleskill, NY, and to Geraldine, Dan, Gene and Kathy who joined us for the first time at the Federal Building in Detroit for what Geraldine described as “a VERY wet and windy vigil”, adding, “We’ll have better weather and better signs next month, we promise! Meanwhile, we will keep insisting that Guantánamo be closed NOW.”

And finally, spare a thought for former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, who joined us in Belgrade, where, he said, he unfortunately had no one to hold a vigil with, and where, I’m pretty sure, holding an outdoor protest would have been frowned upon. It’s a reminder that we shouldn’t take our freedoms for granted, and that, sadly, being released from Guantánamo doesn’t necessarily mean being free.

Former Guantánamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi joining the global vigils in Belgrade on May 3, 2023.
Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network, and our new US friend, Henry (2nd from right), across the road from the US Embassy in Nine Elms, London on May 3, 2023.
A campaigner in Mexico City with the poster of the 16 men still held who have been approved for release.
A campaigner in Mexico City with the poster of the 16 men still held who have been approved for release.
A campaigner in Mexico City with the poster of the 16 men still held who have been approved for release.
Natalia Rivera Scott.
Alli McCracken.
A campaigner in Mexico City.
A line of campaigners in New York on May 3, 2023 (Photo: Linda Novenski).
Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture in New York on May 3, 2023 (Photo: Linda Novenski).
Three campaigners in New York on May 3, 2023 (Photo: Linda Novenski).
Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait in New York on May 3, 2023 with a sign making reference to the damning UN report about the treatment of Abu Zubaydah (Photo: Linda Novenski).

If you can, please join us next month, either by joining an existing vigil, or by starting your own (and if you do set up a vigil, please let me know).


London: Sara Birch on 07710 789616.
Washington, D.C.: Steve Lane on 571-221-4120.
New York: Debra Sweet on 646-807-3259.
Mexico City: Natalia on 55 3993 1730.

P.S. Please also join the Close Guantánamo campaign’s ongoing photo campaign, taking a photo of yourself with the poster marking 7,800 days of Guantánamo’s existence on May 20, and sending it to All the photos will be posted here, and on social media.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (see the ongoing photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and, in 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to try to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

Since 2019, Andy has become increasingly involved in environmental activism, recognizing that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to life on earth, and that the window for change — requiring a severe reduction in the emission of all greenhouse gases, and the dismantling of our suicidal global capitalist system — is rapidly shrinking, as tipping points are reached that are occurring much quicker than even pessimistic climate scientists expected. You can read his articles about the climate crisis here.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, featuring photos from, and my report about the eight coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantanamo that took place on May 3, 2023 in London, Washington, D.C., New York, Mexico City, Brussels, Copenhagen, Detroit and Los Angeles.

    The ongoing vigils take place on the first Wednesday of every month, and, as well as calling for the closure of the prison, also highlight the plight of the 16 men still held (out of 30 in total) who have been approved for release but, in 13 cases, cannot be repatriated because of US laws, and must be found new homes in third countries.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Thank you all, amazing activists! I have tears in my eyes! All the beautiful photos!
    I’m so happy to be part of this. Together we will close Guantánamo ♥️

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your wonderful support, as always, Natalia. So great to see so many of you out in Mexico City!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevin Hester wrote:

    Your dedication, integrity and courage in taking up the baton for these terrorised people is an inspiration.
    I bow in deep respect for your commitment and professionalism.

    “A majority of those imprisoned at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp were subjected to various forms of physical and psychological abuse—techniques that were developed by two American psychologists contracted by the CIA to develop its torture program. The torture included but was not limited to waterboarding, sexual harassment and abuse, physical abuse, and sleep deprivation. Those formerly imprisoned still experience physical and psychological distress and trauma as a result of their treatment in Guantánamo Bay. A 2014 U.S. Senate intelligence report found the torture program was ineffective in its stated goal of obtaining military intelligence.”

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the kind words, and for your support, as always, Kevin. I’m not entirely convinced by the Bridge Initiative’s assessment of torture and abuse at Guantanamo, however, as it suggests that it was the responsibility of the CIA – and, especially, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the architects of the “black site” torture program – whereas most of the torture and abuse at Guantanamo involved the military, and various “intelligence-gathering” organisations working at odds with other organisations seeking to gather intelligence for prosecution through non-coercive means. One day this whole sordid story needs to be told in more detail than it has been to date. This is one of the intentions of the Guantanamo Accountability Project, which I hope to launch later this year.

  6. Ethan Winters says...

    I think at least 14 of the men must be found new homes in third countries. 11 Yemenis, one Libyan, one Somali and a stateless Rohingya. I’m not sure about the Tunisian. I know the Obama administration refused to repatriate Tunisians even though Tunisia isn’t on the Congress ban list but I don’t know what the Biden administration plans to do. I hope all 16 men are freed by January 20, 2025. I doubt Biden will win re-election and Trump and DeSantis (the two Republican frontrunners) will obviously not transfer prisoners who didn’t plead guilty.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Ethan, and thanks for your assessment of the situation. I didn’t include Muieen Abd Al-Sattar as requiring resettlement in a third country because he apparently holds Pakistani citizenship, although the problem for the Biden administration is that he has refused to deal with the authorities since his approval for release in 2010, as is also the case with the Tunisian, Ridah Al-Yazidi. As there is no ban on repatriating Tunisians, he could presumably be repatriated if he were to cooperate, but it’s worrying that neither man wants to engage with the authorities at all.

    I completely agree with you about the need for Biden to free these men before his term in office ends, because there’s no certainty that he will win again, and for the same reason he also needs to decide what will happen to the other 14 men – or, technically, 13 of them because Abd Al-Hadi Al-Iraqi is supposed to be released next year as as a result of his plea deal last year, although as he is extremely ill, and cannot be repatriated, it’s surely going to be a problem resettling him.

    3 of these 14, of course, are “forever prisoners”, but while I think Muhammad Rahim should be approved for release, there seems no willingness to approve the release of other two – Abu Zubaydah and Abu Faraj Al-Libi – and even if they were approved for release, freeing them will, again, be difficult. Both men would need resettling, because al-Libi is Libyan, and Abu Zubaydah is essentially stateless.

    The only way forward, it seems to me, is for Guantanamo to continue to exist in some form, but with seriously upgraded facilities for dealing with aging prisoners, many with complex needs when it comes to their physical and mental health.

  8. Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo in London, Washington, D.C., New York, Mexico City, Copenhagen, Brussels and Detroit on May 3, 2023 – UK Guantanamo Network says...

    […] from this article by Andy Worthington, published 5 May […]

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish report, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Fotos y reporte: las vigilias globales coordinadas por el cierre de Guantánamo en Londres, Washington D.C, Nueva York, Ciudad de México, Copenhague, Bruselas y Detroit el 3 de mayo del 2023’:

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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